For at least two Marathon Oil Company employees, the fight against breast cancer is real — and personal.
Eileen Campbell, vice president of public policy, and Carmela Ledet, race director of this year’s Komen Houston Race for the Cure and an employee in the international production department, are breast cancer survivors and advocates.
Both were in attendance Thurday, Aug. 22, as the Komen Race for the Cure Houston officially kicked off with Komen Carnival at the Marathon Oil Tower.
Marathon employees and guests were encouraged to donate time, money or both, and to sign up for the Oct. 5 race near downtown Houston. October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
“(The kickoff) shines light on the number of people diagnosed with breast cancer annually, and shines light on Marathon as a presenting sponsor,” said Adriana Higgins, executive director of Komen Houston.
Marathon President and CEO Lee Tillman said that he was honored to see so many people turn out Thursday, showing support for the goal of “the end of breast cancer.”
Tillman said that beyond Marathon “living its values” as a presenting sponsor and contributions of its employees, the fight to cure breast cancer was a personal one — his mother, who turns 80 this year, is a 30-year breast cancer survivor.
One in eight women in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer at some point in their lives. Some 15,000 cases are diagnosed annually in Texas.
“Most people in this room have had someone — wife, mother, sister, friend — impacted by breast cancer,” said Tillman.
Ledet was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1993. She said that after undergoing treatment and recovery, she started fundraising for breast cancer research.
Ledet said her desire to help deepened in 2002 when she lost a close friend to breast cancer. She and several other women formed a race team in her friend’s memory.
Ledet challenged Marathon employees to raise $100,000 — $20,000 more than last year’s record of $80,000.
Higgins said that Komen Houston serves the seven-county greater Houston area, and that the organization has spent $30 million for breast cancer education, screening and treatment, and an additional $15 million for research. Those counties include Brazoria, Chambers, Fort Bend, Galveston, Harris, Liberty and Montgomery counties.
Campbell, a eight-year breast cancer survivor, said she was fortunate to work for a “phenomenally supportive” company that was with her “every step of the way.”
She said that coincidentally, she was diagnosed in 2005, the first year Marathon sponsored the Komen Race Houston.
Komen Houston last year awarded $3 million to Southeast Texas organizations that provide services to uninsured and low-income inidividuals.
“A lot of people don’t work for great companies or have great insurance,” Campbell said. And, “some counties (outside Harris) only have one mammogram machine.”
The first Komen Houston Race for the Cure raised approximately $34,000 in October 1991 as 2,400 women took to the streets.
Organizers this year expect more than 26,000 registered participants and hope to raise more than $4 million. The race raised $3.8 million in 2012.
Komen says that up to 75 percent of net proceeds stay in the service area to fund grants to breast health organizations. The other 25 percent is contributed to the Susan G. Komen National Award and Research Grant Program to fund research.